Twenty years ago I got extreme altitude sickness while hiking in Peru with my wife. Thankfully she was there to advocate for me with our guides because if I had been on my own, the odds are high that I would never have made it. I was so loopy that I was unable to explain to our guides, who spoke very little English, that my lungs were filling with fluid and my brain was losing functionality.
Being saved from major illness or worse is not what this blog is about. It’s about the fiftieth anniversary of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. The connection? A dream that I had over and over the first night that the altitude sickness was really impacting me in Peru.
That dream, which I feel like I had dozens of times that night, was short and bizarre. In the dream, I burst into the rooming house where King’s assassin James Earl Ray was staying. Each and every time I am a split second too late to stop the fatal shot from being fired. The countless repetitions of this dream almost drove me insane that night.
I’m reminded of this odd moment in my life as I consider the tragic half century marking of Dr. King’s death. Why would a Canadian, who has never truly felt the pain of serious racism, be dreaming about an assassination that can’t be undone? Was there something significant in my dream, or was it a fluke?
Dr. King had a dream that almost everyone in the world has heard parts of. His dream was to end racism. His dream was for people to not be judged by the colour of their skin. His dream was to end bitterness and hatred. His dream was for society to follow the idea that all men are created equal.
The world is killing the dream.
I fear that if Dr. King were alive today it may have killed him as well.
In Canada, we have unarmed indigenous kids being killed by white men who are being acquitted on grounds that it was an accident. Did the gun get loaded by accident?
Across Europe, we have countries closing their doors to Syrian families who are being forced to leave a country they don’t really want to leave, but a convoluted and unwinnable civil war has left them no choice.
In Burma, rape, murder, and arson are being utilized to chase out unwanted minorities.
Don’t even get me started on the United States. “The land of the free”.
“The land of the free” where a professional football team thinks it is okay to use a nickname that at one point literally meant the scalped head of a Native American. Oh, and by the way, the reward for each carcass was $200, about the price of a good seat in the stadium.
“The land of the free” where people want to fly the flag that represents the enslavement of four million of my ancestors.
‘The land of the free” unless you’re a Dreamer which means you’re one of nearly a million young people brought to America by your parents, albeit illegally, who are now being threatened with deportation. That’s right young lady, you were brought here at two years old by your parents, but now despite your university degree, your good job, your loving partner, and your cute puppy – we want you to leave because you seem like a threat.
I do believe in signs, symbolism, messages, and yes even my dreams. Though I can’t explain that night in Peru, or why when I sat down to reflect on MLK why this memory came flooding back. For whatever the reason, I know there is a reason. So with that to consider, I leave you with three thoughts:
I wonder what it will take for the world to fulfill Dr. King’s dreams.
I wonder if our children will live in a world where they can fulfill their dreams.
I wonder what part of you, me, or even a perfect stranger can play in that most important calling.
Do you have a dream?